Tablet-Phablet-PC: Rock-Paper-Scissors?

by Pallavi Sharma

March 4 2013

Pallavi Sharma is a software architect for Platform & Product Enabling at Intel

Intel’s Pallavi Sharma sees 5-8 inch tablets helping revive the need for laptop and desktop computers.

Will the prosperous advent of phablets mean the recovery of the PC? Phablets, or smartphones with screen sizes between 5-8 inches are popping up all over the place and they’re having an interesting influence on how we view mobile devices.

For the longest time, the resistors of the tablet movement complained of having too many devices to carry.  “When you need one machine for work and one for communication... did you really want another media device for books and movies?” they would say.

The question was asked often enough that it propelled the manufacturers to either pack more productivity into the tablet a la Windows 8 or RT devices or more media into the smartphone a la Samsung Galaxy Note offerings.
GarageBand and Keynote type apps started dispelling myths faster than you could say “photo editing.” Content creation on tablets started becoming a reality. The PC sales continued to slide and lose to tablets.

The PC is not dead, just flat

Everywhere you heard there was a loud death knell for the PC. The question was will tablets replace PC altogether in the so far relatively safe enterprise space? All this while the PC manufacturers scrambled to answer this question in their own way… by packing more tablet-like functions into the PC. 

It must be a tablet when you need it with a magic hinge or revolving clamp and a full-fledged compute device for serious usages. It must adopt into the tablet and smartphone ecosystem and be backward compatible for all PC applications.

No doubt the old clunker must give way to a sleeker, thinner, lighter, power efficient, battery life enhanced, performance packed, drool- worthy must-have device. It must be as portable as it can be productive where the consumers can expect a continuity in their data and services via cloud computing. 

Last year, we saw several of these hybrid attempts being offered to consumers worldwide by manufacturers like Lenovo, Samsung, Acer and Dell.
So as the PC continues to blur the differentiating line between a tablet and PC, the success of the phablet can only mean good news for PC manufacturers everywhere.  With their large 5-inch to 8-inch screen sizes, extensive portability and a rich lush apps ecosystem, the phablets are perfect media consumption and communication devices. 

In a pinch, one could even use it for content editing although it may not be the content creation device of choice.  Now, a tablet alone seems superfluous and excessive. Phablets are being hailed as the go-anywhere gadget and the "Swiss Army Knife" equivalent of a computing device. With attractive pricing and exciting capabilities, the phablets will eventually cannibalize the tablet demand.  

And yet, as impressive as their features and capabilities are, it is the limitations of the phablets that will give a boost to the PC success.  That is, the new redefined PC, with significant tablet DNA. 

Last device standing

The tussle for relevance between a PC, tablet and phablet is far from over.  The landscape is still evolving and innovation barriers are still being scaled. This year promises to have a wide array of choices in all three categories where ultimately the consumers decide on the best balance for their buck. 

My money is on the happy coexistence of the phablet and PC which answers the work, creativity and entertainment needs of a modern day user and the tablet usages being absorbed by either one or both.
*Views and thoughts expressed in this article are in a personal capacity and not endorsed by Intel in any way.*

Pallavi Sharma is a software architect for Platform & Product Enabling at Intel

If you are a tablet industry professional and would like to contribute a vendor-agnostic analysis piece to our Opinions section, please contact Michael Singer, Business editor.

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  • ESMarketing
    1 year 7 months ago

    Nice opinion piece. My personal take on this is that people will probably carry multiple devices. The exact device(s) will depend on where they will be, how long will they be there, and what they need to accomplish there. I used the first generation iPAQ and an early generation Smartphone from Audiovox. The Smartphone I found to be neither “smart” nor a good “phone”. Very limited functionality and worse, very hard for me to hear people and for them to hear me on a phone call out in the real-world surrounded by street and other noise.

    I still find the laptop to be the most important element, followed by the simple water-proof high-impact resistant phone. I find the instant-on tablet great for checking on something not worth turning on a full computer, or to consume content. I like having the choice and the multi-screen, multi-device world suits me just fine but I think we are a ways from having all the best form factors & use cases figured out.

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